The Men’s Basketball team holds its first official practice

Robert George

The Georgia Southern Eagles Men’s Basketball team held its first official practice last Friday. Head Coach Mark Byington said that he was excited to be back on the court and ready to get started.

“I think every coach is gonna say they had a good offseason but I really do believe it,” he said. “I think all of our guys got better, got stronger.”

The team is returning two starters from last year’s squad that finished 22-9 and made it to the Sun Belt Championship game. Guards Jake Allsmiller and Mike Hughes both started last season, and will be counted on to be the leaders of the young team that features just one upperclassman.

“We had so many seniors last year,” Allsmiller said. “They led well, they taught us some things, communicating with each other, talking, always encouraging each other.”

Allsmiller averaged around five points and was primarily a three-point specialist in the starting lineup. He’s worked hard to becoming a more dynamic player, in addition to adding some weight.

“Becoming more diverse in my game, not being able to just shoot, but put the ball on the floor more and rebound for the team,” he said. “That and just getting stronger.”

Mike Hughes is another returning starter at the guard position. He also is going to have a bigger role on offense this season, and has been working on his shot from the perimeter. He averaged just under eight points and two assists per game as well as swiping 40 steals on defense, good for second most on the team. He is also ready for more responsibility on the team.

“The best thing I can be to them is a leader,” he said. “Show them the ropes and hope they follow along.”

Coach Byington is counting on their experience and ability to lead the younger players, especially early in the season.

“I expect Mike and Jake to not act like sophomores,” he said. “The guys are gonna look up to them, so they’re definitely gonna have to be leaders.”

Another key piece to the Eagles lineup is graduate student Devince Boykins, a transfer from Marshall. He brings both talent and big game experience to the Eagles, something that the team will need both of in the nonconference schedule that features games at Ole Miss, Auburn and 2015 national champions Duke. Boykins averaged 15 minutes per game last season with Marshall. He averaged three points per game, and shot 44% from behind the arc. He is ready for the role as the team elder and vocal leader.

“Being vocal, holding my teammates accountable,” Boykins said. “Looking to bring some excitement to the team and to the crowd. I have some experience in big time games.”

Speaking on the nonconference schedule, Coach Byington said that who they play doesn’t matter as long as there is game-to-game improvement.

“We just need to be better than we were last game,” he said. “Whether it’s Ole Miss, Duke or Winthrop, it doesn’t make a difference. We just wanna be headed in the right direction. We’re at the point where we really gotta gel as a team. We gotta make sure we don’t have any bad days, that we’re always moving forward. I’m excited about going into it with this bunch.”

Boykins said that the team just needs to embace the moment and execute what they work on in practice. “The biggest thing is just live in the moment and play ball,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s just basketball.”

“That’s why we’re playing against all them,” Allsmiller said. “They’re the best and we wanna play the best. Playing against those high-level teams are gonna put us on a different level.”

The Eagles will have the entire month of October to work before hosting Middle Georgia on November 5 for an exhibition. The season officially starts on Friday, November 13, when the Eagles will host Webber International. Keep checking for updates on the team as the season opener gets closer.